In 1951, Mary Gertrude Baker was one Bahamian woman, who was determined to stand up for herself. She knew she had done nothing wrong in her employer’s house. The teenager wasn’t taking, even one syllable of those false criminal charges lodged against her, lying down. Mary Gertrude Baker fought back! And won!
When Mary’s employer charged her with theft, she got a lawyer. Mary certainly had gumption, considering her employer was a respected white American doctor, and she, only a black teenager, from Nassau, was fighting a legal battle, so far from home.
Mary Gertrude Baker, was only 19-years old, when she left the Bahamas, in May 1951, to take up a maid’s job, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Travelling thousands of miles away from her home, in Nassau, to live and work, in an unpredictable, pre-civil rights, America, would bring unexpected trials and tribulations for the negro teenager.
Why and how this young black woman, Miss Mary Gertrude Baker, would choose to travel so far, for such a menial job, we can only imagine that life and opportunities were limited in Nassau in the 1950s.
June 1951, CORPUS CHRISTI TEXAS
We pick up Mary’s story on 26th. June 1951, after her employer, American physician, Dr. O. J. Lighthizer, with whom she was employed as a maid, had filed criminal charges against the 19-year-old Mary Gertrude Baker.
Dr. O. J. Lighthizer claimed that between May 18th. 1951, when Mary Gertrude Baker arrived in Corpus Christi to take up her maid’s employment with Lighthizer and May 28, 1951, when Mary hastily took a bus out of Corpus Christi, that Mary stole $28 from Lighthizer’s home.
When Mary heard of the charges, instead of running scared, she fought back. Mary got a lawyer and demanded the charges be dismissed or a speedy trial scheduled, so that she could say her peace and clear her name.
(The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Tuesday, 26 June, 1951)
PETTY THEFT TRIAL OF BAHAMIAN MARY GERTRUDE BAKER SET FOR JULY 12, 1951 AFTER MATERIAL WITNESS, WIFE OF DR. LIGHTHIZER ASKS FOR A LATER DATE
Mrs. Lighthizer, wife of Dr. Lighthizer, a proclaimed material witness to the alleged $28 theft committed by Mary Gertrude Baker, had requested a delay in the trial. Mary wasn’t having it. She wanted a speedy trial or the charges immediately dismissed.
After lawyers for both sides held discussions, the trial was set for July 12, 1951, in Corpus Christi, Texas.
(The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Thursday , 28 June, 1951)
SEPTEMBER 1951 – MARY GERTRUDE BAKER FILES $40,250 SLANDER SUIT AGAINST DR. O. J. LIGHTHIZER
By September 1951, a few months after the criminal trial for petty theft lodged against Mary Gertrude Baker, the 19 year old instructed her lawyer to file a $40,250 slander suit against her former employer of ten days.
(The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Wednesday , 12 September, 1951)
NOVEMBER 1951 – NEGRO MAID AWARDED $500 IN JUDGMENT AGAINST FORMER EMPLOYER WHO ALLEGED THEFT
The theft complaint filed in the Corpus Christi court of law was dismissed at trial. Dr. Lighthizer at maliciously and wrongly accused 19 year old Mary Gertrude Baker of theft of $28.
(The Corpus Christi Caller-Times, Wednesday , 14 November , 1951)
MARY GERTRUDE BAKER was born on 24 April 1932 (Nassau, Bahamas) and died on 15 December 2003 (Nassau, Bahamas)
Mary Gertrude Baker daughter of…
Herbert Alexander Baker Sr. (born about 1904 in Arthur’s Town, Cat Island.
Maria Ann Thurston born Arthur’s Town Cat, Island